Spoiler alert! This reflection assumes you've watched the movie. It will reveal and reflect on key plot points from the movie.
Wonder Woman is an entertaining movie about a heroine I previously knew little about. I've always been a fan of heroes from the Justice League of America, so I am thrilled to see a DC shared universe forming and I was excited to watch this installment in the series. The movie has all the usual suspense, special effects, explosions, and super villains expected in a superhero movie, but it also delivered a debate on the human condition at the movie's climax that is worth further reflection.
At the peak of the climatic battle between Wonder Woman and Ares, Wonder Woman sees the man she loves sacrifice himself to save thousands from being exposed to mustard gas. She is enraged and the dialogue that follows reflects an ancient debate among believers.
Ares insists that "They are ugly, filled with hatred, weak." He is right. Sin is ugly and every one of us has been marred by its stain. We all probably harbor a little more hatred then we'd like to admit. Each of us born with original sin is inclined to give into temptation. Ares insists on the total depravity of man.
Standing the in the middle of a war zone and faced with countless examples of the evil mankind is capable of, Wonder Woman may have agreed with Ares. Then she recalls Steve Trevor's selfless sacrifice. This single example of holiness in man gives her pause, and she responds to Ares with one of my favorite lines in the whole movie.
You're wrong about them. They're everything you say, but so much more.
- Wonder Woman
This quote reflects the Church's understanding of the human person. While it is true that we are stained by sin, we are so much more. Each of us is created in the image of God and therefore each of us is inherently good. Our worth comes not from what we have done but from whose we are. Sin can deeply wound us and serious sin can even separate us from God, but nothing can remove our inherent dignity of being created in God's image. It is important for each us to understand our own self worth and to marvel at our capacity for holiness. As believers we strive not only to recognize how we are images of God but also to live a holy life and more closely conform ourselves to that image.
It is significant that Wonder Woman lets go of her rage and proclaims mankind's worth after witnessing an act of love. It is amazing how one act of love, an act of selfless sacrifice for another, makes a difference. Love tends to inspire more love. It inspires Wonder Woman to protect the soldiers around her from Ares, and Ares objects "They do not deserve your protection." To this, Wonder Woman retorts "It's not about deserve. It's about what you believe. And I believe in love." This reflects God's answer to evil and suffering; God's answer to evil is love. Ares and Wonder Woman are right; we don't deserve this love. God freely and abundantly loves us anyway.
God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
God could have saved us anyway he wanted. He could have become a king or a knight. Jesus could have quietly lived as a carpenter all his life touching individual lives without ever publicly upsetting anyone. While there were countless possible ways the Son of God could have died, in his death he responded to the ugliness and hatred of mankind with infinite love and the selfless gift of his very self and in so doing he gave us an example to follow.
When Wonder Woman witnessed Steve Trevor's selfless sacrificial love, it prompted her to reject hatred and embrace love. The act of selfless sacrificial love par excellence is Christ's gift of himself upon the cross. When I ask my daughter what the cross means, she knows to respond "Jesus loves us!" My home is filled with crosses as many domestic churches are. It would be great if every time we saw a cross in our home we would be reminded of love like Wonder Woman was when she saw the explosion in the sky. How would our homes change if every time we saw a cross on the wall or on a chain around someone's neck we recommitted ourselves to responding to mankind's shortcomings with love?
Hopefully we don't experience deep hatred or the violence of war in our homes, but frustration, annoyance, disappointment, anger, impatience, and more may run rampant. What if one bickering sibling recalled the other sibling is an image of God and responded with love instead of escalating the squabble? What if a husband who was hurt by his wife remembered her inherent dignity and forgave her instead of harboring resentment? What if parents focused on the good in their children as they wrangled them into bed or out the door instead of being consumed by anger and frustration? What would happen if we treated children, parents, in-laws, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins not by giving them what they deserve but by giving them unconditional love? And if this was the atmosphere we experienced at home, how would it change they way we approach work and school and communities and how would love spread?
When Wonder Woman was faced with the choice to fight mankind because the ugliness of sin in our lives or protect mankind with a love we do not deserve, she chose love. May we, inspired by stories like hers and by the story of God's abundant love for each of us do the same!